Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Curmudgeon becomes a grandfather again -- Part II

For Part I, scroll down the page or click here.

I raced home from the office expecting to see my wife, Younger Daughter, and the Baby-Who'd-Better-Get-A-Name-Soon sitting on the front steps glaring at me. But they weren't through packing yet: There were decisions to be made about what food to bring and what to leave behind. My consent was required (merely as a courtesy, you understand) for the clothes that Long Suffering Spouse had picked out for me. And which electronic devices would be taken, and where were the chargers?

At some point, I was told to take Granddaughter #1 into the backyard and jolly her up whilst her mother and grandmother finished putting things together. One of us -- either me or the toddler -- was apparently in the way. (Yes, I suppose it was me, too.)

Anyway, it was a glorious day in Chicago last Tuesday, the kind of day when you'd want to be outdoors anyway, and #1 Granddaughter was very pleased at the opportunity to play on the jungle gym (I spotted her down the slide) and she shrieked with pleasure when she sat with me on the swing. Before that, though, I checked my messages. My phones have an uncanny way of ringing five minutes after I leave the office. Sure enough, I had a message from one of the attorneys (an ex-partner, actually) who was trying to engage me in a new matter that would be up in court tomorrow. I'd already told him that would be impossible, and he'd already agreed that it should be possible to get a continuance in the circumstances. Now, though, he wanted to talk to me about the papers I'd need to review for court. I returned the call from the backyard, as the planes flew continuously overhead on their way to O'Hare. The new runway openings has somehow resulted in increased traffic over the Curmudgeon Manse. Granddaughter #1, knowing no better, does not mind; in fact, she waves 'bye-bye' to the planes as they pass. She is getting very adept at 'bye-bye.'

"There's too much to scan," my ex-partner told me, reversing an earlier proposal to email me the materials I needed to review. "We could deliver them to your office, but you're already home?" he asked. And leaving momentarily, I lied, not knowing how far preparations had yet advanced. In the end, it was decided to overnight the materials to my house. That way, when I got back into town I would have them immediately. That struck me as sensible. I hung up and went to play on the swings.

It turns out that swinging on the swingset isn't quite as easy as it looks when you have to hold a toddler in place. I tired quickly. Granddaughter the First was made of sterner stuff; she was prepared to keep going for a much longer time.

Nevertheless, I told her, we have to see if it's time to go bye-bye. I got her car seat out of the little car and hooked it up to the van. This was difficult to do while holding onto the Baby-to-Be-Named-Soon, so I had to trust her not to rush into the street when I put her down on the ground. Fortunately, her mother did not catch me while I was doing this.

Then, having hooked everything together as best I could, I installed the child in the car seat and went inside to see if I could carry any bags to the car. Indeed I could, I was told -- and back and forth I trudged. I'd left my briefcase in the van anyway (just in case I was going to find time to get some work done) but there was plenty else to carry.

Granddaughter #1 was happy to see me galumphing to and fro. It doesn't matter the age or the relationship, the female of the species likes it when the male is constructively engaged.

Eventually Long Suffering Spouse and Younger Daughter came out to inspect my handiwork. Long Suffering Spouse rearranged everything in the trunk while Younger Daughter eyed the car seat skeptically. "You put this in?" she asked. "I did," I said, and not without a little pride. "Hmmmm," she said, and she tugged here and pulled there before pronouncing the results inadequate. She fixed it. I pretended not to mind.

Finally, though, we were ready to hit the road. It was too late now to go back through the City (rush hour in Chicago, especially on the inbound Kennedy, starts by 3:00 and it was nearly 3:30). Actually, we'd be going with traffic on the Tollway route as well, and we'd be tied up there, too, unless we got going immediately.

Long Suffering Spouse got a text from Older Daughter just as we were pulling out of the driveway. They broke the bag but nothing's happening, the text read. It was adorned with a frowny-face as well. You have to wait awhile, Long Suffering Spouse texted back.

So would we, as it turned out.

There were no more texts from Older Daughter, even after Long Suffering Spouse and Younger Daughter fired off a couple of inquiries. Involuntary radio silence descended on our expedition as we worked our way south and east.

There is a wind farm now along I-65, about halfway between the beginning of the highway and Indianapolis. For the anxious adults, the rows of giant, slowly rotating windmills, looking more like giant table fans than anything else, provided confirmation of our journey's progress. For #1 Granddaughter, the windmills provide a source of wonder and entertainment. She pointed and commented and gibbered. I've no doubt that she was expressing her opinions on alternate energy sources, but, at roughly 18 months, her diction is not yet precise.

By the time we made Lafayette, the continuing telephone silence was becoming worrisome. Speculation had been exhausted. Maybe she's already had the baby -- maybe she's having a problem? -- maybe she'll have to be C-sectioned, too! (Younger Daughter had a C-section, and she's a bit sensitive about it still, as if she somehow did something wrong. The vigorous, healthy toddler in the car seat next to her should have satisfied her on this point, but there you have it.)

It was determined that extraordinary measures would have to be taken. "I will text Hank," Younger Daughter announced, and Long Suffering Spouse, who had until now opposed such a radical step, agreed that it was time.

I did not participate in this discussion about whether to text, or not to text. We didn't have texting when my kids were born. I can well imagine my response if my phone had beeped in the middle of events, however. I am pretty sure the phone would not have survived. I can't say whether I would have crushed it underfoot or dashed it against the wall, but the one thing I am absolutely certain that I would not have done is to have responded to a text.

Hank responded. His initial message -- that things were fine -- was a bit terse and incomplete for Long Suffering Spouse's and Younger Daughter's taste, but they were somewhat relieved.

And there were further communications from inside the labor room. I can't recall the exact sequence now -- only a week afterward -- but, at one point, he said that Older Daughter was 'taking a break' from pushing.

Long Suffering Spouse was incredulous. "Taking a break? Taking a break?" But all her labors were quick and extraordinarily intense. In her experience, pushing had not been something that could be interrupted, much less suspended.

The other datum which had been communicated by Hank was the name of the hospital where Older Daughter was laboring and more importantly (since there are apparently about six hospitals in Indianapolis with that same name) which of these was the correct one to aim for.

We would have to rely on GPS to find the place.

I hate GPS.

It is unreliable. Certainly it is insufficient as the sole means of providing directions: How many news stories have you read over the years of people turning off highways and into ditches or onto railroad tracks (and not at a crossing) because they slavishly complied with the dictates of their GPS? I really started to hate GPS, though, when we traveled as a family to Oldest Son's wedding in San Antonio, Texas, a place where I'd never been. I'd put some time into reviewing maps and printing out directions beforehand; my children all pulled out their smart phones (I was years away from getting one myself) and solemnly assured each other, and me, and Long Suffering Spouse, and my increasingly fearful mother-in-law that I had led them to the wrong hotel. In the wee small hours of the morning. After a delayed, and cramped, flight. And they were wrong. I was right.

Just last summer I had to produce a witness for a deposition in the western suburbs. I met him at the Kane County Courthouse. We adjourned to the Starbucks across the street to prepare him for his testimony. We then were to drive our own cars to the other lawyer's office which was located, literally, in the middle of nowhere. I called for directions. My witness -- one of those 20-somethings that lives on his mobile phone -- used GPS. I was on time. He was a half hour late -- GPS had gotten him hopelessly lost -- and he never would have made it had he not called me for directions.

So I wasn't wild about relying on GPS. "Well," I growled to Younger Daughter, "you relay the directions. I don't want to hear the stupid phone voice."

"That way it will be my fault," Younger Daughter said. She didn't ask. She didn't have to ask.

"Right," I confirmed.

Do you have traffic circles, sometimes called roundabouts, where you live? We have one in the Chicago area not too far from us. We avoid it like Chernobyl. It scares me to death. On the couple of occasions that I have been forced, for one reason or another, to venture through it, traffic seems to be coming from every direction at once, and randomly, and unpredictably besides.

But apparently the power-that-be in the outlying areas of Indianapolis are greatly enamored of traffic circles. At least they have installed them approximately every two blocks on the road that we were forced to take to the hospital.

We were forced to take this literally circuitous route because the main highway was closed due to construction. There was no surprise here. Wherever I want to go, no matter when, no matter how, I will encounter serious construction.

"At least it's still light out," Long Suffering Spouse said as I careened through still another traffic circle. "I'd hate to try this in the dark," she added.

"Yes," I managed. I was the picture of concentration, focused entirely on the swerving traffic around me. Still I heard Younger Daughter add, "Just two more of these to go and we're there."

And, for a wonder, the GPS was right.

Darkness was descending on Indianapolis as we parked in the hospital lot. So much for encountering traffic circles in daylight, I thought, but did not say. We'd not heard anything from inside the hospital for awhile (our last instruction was to come to the third floor waiting room). I scanned the darkening skies anxiously. I didn't see any storks.

Yes, I'm stretching this into three parts, I guess. Next: Waiting with the unhappy in-laws.

1 comment:

Steve Skinner said...

Congratulations on becoming a grandparent again!